Ohio State Tops Dayton in Charity Exhibition

The 2023-24 basketball season is underway, not officially, but a first look at Team #125 took place at UD Arena vs Dayton. The game was put together as a charity exhibition to earn money for mental health awareness in honor of Dayton coach Anthony Grant who lost his daughter to suicide a little over a year ago. While the charity was the most important reason for the night, there was a basketball game and in front of a sold out crowd, Ohio State downed Atlantic 10 favorite Dayton in their lone public exhibition of the season, 78-70. The Buckeyes took control early in the second half, fought off a Dayton charge and extended the lead midway through the second half en route to the exhibition win. Bruce Thornton led Ohio State with 21, while Jamison Battle added 15 and Roddy Gayle chipped in 12. Dayton was led by 17 from Enoch Cheeks and 10 from DeRon Holmes. 

The Buckeyes started the exhibition with a backcourt of Bruce Thorton, Roddy Gayle and Jamison Battle, while the frontcourt consisted of Evan Mahaffey and Felix Okpara. This may not be the same lineup the Buckeyes will run out to start game 1, but all five of these guys should be big contributors throughout the year. 

The Flyers jumped out to an early 6-0 lead with a pair of triples before the Buckeyes, who missed their first three shots, finally got on the board when Evan Mahaffey drilled a long jumper from the top. After another Dayton bucket, Felix Okpara rebounded his own miss and went up strong for a score while being fouled. Okpara banged down the freebie to complete the old fashioned three point play and cut the Dayton lead to 8-5. Another Flyer triple was followed by a Jamison Battle pull up jumper from the left wing. After a defensive stop, Okpara scored with a drop step and one handed jumper from the left block and at the first media timeout, Dayton led 11-9. Out of the timeout, Ohio State took their first lead, when off a baseline in bounds play, Dale Bonner pitched it out to Zed Key, who kicked back to Bonner in the left corner and he drilled a triple. After a Dayton miss, Bruce Thornton drilled a transition three to increase the Buckeye lead to 4. After a Flyer deuce, Thornton knocked down a deep three and the Buckeyes led 18-13. Another pair of Flyer triples sandwiched a Thornton pullup from the left block and at the under 12 media timeout, Ohio State held a 20-19 lead. The Buckeye lead increased to two when Scotty Middleton split a pair of free throws, but a pair of free throws on the other end tied the score at 21. An Ohio State turnover on the offensive end gave the Flyers a chance on their end, but Roddy Gayle took an errant pass and went the other way for a score off the glass to break the tie and put Ohio State back in front. A Flyer bucket after a missed front end of a one and one by Devin Royal re-tied the score, but a pair of Gayle free throws put the Buckeyes back ahead. Six straight Flyer points put Dayton up 4 and at the under 8 media timeout, Dayton led Ohio State 29-25. A 9-0 run by Ohio State out of the break put the Buckeyes up 5. Gayle split a pair of free throws and after he missed the second, an offensive rebound by Okpara gave the Buckeyes another chance and Gayle scored at the rim. A pair of Battle triples capped the 9-0 run before Dayton ended the run with a three of their own. A pair of Thornton freebies put the Buckeyes up 4 and the lead increased to 6 when Gayle took a pass on the left block and when his defender fell, Gayle scored with a reverse lay-in. Another Flyer three trimmed the lead to 3 and at the final media break of the half, Ohio State led 38-35. A short one-hander by Mahaffey bumped the lead to 5 before a Dayton bucket cut the lead back to 3. The lead bumped to 5 when Royal picked the pocket of a Flyer on the perimeter and fed Scotty Middleton for a lay in. Dayton scored right before the horn to send the teams to the locker room with Ohio State leading 42-39 after 20 minutes. Nine Buckeyes saw floor time in the first half who was led by Bruce Thornton with 10 first half points while Roddy Gayle added 9 and Jamison Battle 8. Enoch Cheeks led Dayton with 17, including 5 of 5 from long range. Preseason A 10 player of the year, DeRon Holmes added 10. 

The Buckeyes started the second half with Bonner, Thornton, Middleton, Royal and Key on the floor and Royal got the Buckeyes on the board first, catching a Middleton pass at the block and scoring off the window. After a Flyer bucket, Key spun to the rim for a score and drew a foul and buried the free throw to complete the three point play and put Ohio State up 6. A UD bucket cut the lead to 4 before a pull up jumper by Thornton put the Buckeyes back ahead by 6. The lead increased when Thornton went off a screen to the rim and scored off the glass while drawing a foul. He completed the three point play and increased the Buckeye advantage to 9 and after a Flyer offensive foul, the teams hit their respective benches for the under 16 media timeout with Ohio State enjoying a 52-43 lead and on a 10-4 run to start the second half. Five straight Flyer points followed by a backcourt turnover created by full court pressure led to a pair of Dayton free throws to cut the lead to 2. The Flyers tied the score with another pair of free throws as Ohio State had turned it over on three straight possessions against the high pressure Dayton defense. Battle ended the 9-0 Flyer run, drilling a triple and Coach Holtmann called timeout with Ohio State re-claiming the lead at 55-52 and 12:06 to play in the game. A Thornton triple from the right point upped the lead to 6 and after a Flyer miss, in transition, Thornton hit a fade to left of the paint and put Ohio State back up 8. A Flyer triple stopped the Buckeye run and cut the lead back to 5. After a foul by Dayton, Thornton went to the stripe and split the pair. After an offensive foul on the other end put the ball back into Ohio State’s hands, Okpara got fouled attempting a dunk and Felix buried the pair to put Ohio State ahead by 8 with 9:27 to play. A long three by the Flyers trimmed the lead back to 5, but a leaner by Battle to the right of the paint answered and at the under 8 media timeout, Ohio State led Dayton 65-58. A Dayton triple, their 12th of the night, cut the lead to 4, but a pair of Royal free throws on the other end put the Buckeyes back ahead 6. The Flyers split a pair of free throws on their end, but a 10 foot jumper on the left baseline by Battle increased the lead to 7. A Middleton score over a pair of defenders upped the lead to 9 and after Dayton split a pair of free throws, Battle drilled a three from the right wing and at the final media timeout of the game, Ohio State led Dayton 74-63. Out of the timeout, Bonner took the ball away and fed Royal for a dunk to put the Buckeyes up 13. A Flyer three cut it to 10 and after a missed Key dunk off a lob, a pair of Flyer free throws dropped trimming the lead to 8 but with just 49 seconds to play. Mahaffey split a pair of free throws on the other end and Dayton scored with a runner high off the window. Bonner split a pair of free throws for Ohio State with 24 seconds to go to complete the scoring. 

The meaning for this night went far beyond basketball. It was designed to create awareness and generate conversation for mental health along with increasing access to mental health services in the great state of Ohio. The proceeds on the night will go to support Ohio based mental health resources. Former Flyer Obi Toppin, now of the Indiana Pacers was in attendance and donated $20,000 to the cause.  As far as the basketball game, Ohio State did some good things on both ends. They were able to play some different lineups and get a look at multiple combinations. The talent level and depth is evident with this team. They need to work on their defensive rebounding, which they improved upon in the second half as well as their perimeter defense, but overall there was a lot to like. The known quantities, mainly Bruce Thornton, Jamison Battle and Roddy Gayle looked really good on both ends, and Baylor transfer Dale Bonner was really effective on the defensive perimeter with his aggressiveness and quickness. They also got a good look at a couple of the freshmen Devin Royal and Scotty Middleton who showed flashes of what they could become. Unfortunately Taison Chatman and Austin Parks are still nursing injuries and weren’t able to go but overall, they had to be pleased with their first outing. While it was far from perfect, in particular the turnovers against the Dayton pressure, it was a good first time out and should give Buckeye fans plenty to be excited about after competing at a high level against a very good Dayton basketball team that is likely to be playing in the NCAA tournament in March. 

The Buckeyes will be back on the floor publicly for the season opener on November 6th, 2 weeks from tomorrow night, hosting Oakland University at the Schott. Tip time is scheduled for 7pm and airing on BTN+. 

-Jason Harris

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